Normally, players who clear waivers and are bought out by their teams won't make any difference in terms of any team winning an NBA title. However, that could change this season with former All-Star guard Joe Johnson. He was released by Brooklyn on Thursday and has until 5 p.m. ET on Saturday to clear waivers. He absolutely will do that at his monster salary ($24.9 million this season in final year of contract). Then the Nets will give him a buyout and Johnson can sign with anyone (but Brooklyn). And reports are that Johnson is going to go title chasing with Cleveland. Certainly other contenders would want him, but San Antonio and Golden State are set at shooting guard. The Thunder also might have interest, but if I'm Johnson I stay in the East as the Cavs are all but locks to reach the NBA Finals. The guy can still contribute and is averaging 13.4 points and shooting 46 percent from 3-point range since Jan. 1. He has a history of hitting last-second shots as well. The Cavs could roll out a small lineup of Kyrie Irving, Johnson, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson against Golden State in the Finals. That's strong.
Heat at Celtics (-5, 208)
This is a matinee with a 3 p.m. ET start. Miami remains without All-Star Chris Bosh amid reports doctors want to shut him down for the season because of that recurrence of blood clot issues. The Heat played great basketball in a highly-entertaining game I watched every second of Wednesday against Golden State but lost 118-112. Dwyane Wade had a season-high 32 points and seven assists for the Heat, who led by as many as 12 and were still up a point with under a minute left. Hassan Whiteside had 21 points and 13 rebounds for Miami. He has been coming off the bench of late, but it sounds as if that will change very soon. Boston beat visiting Milwaukee 112-107 Thursday for its ninth straight home win. All five Celtics starters finished in double figures, led by Isaiah Thomas' 27. Kelly Olynyk missed his fourth straight game with a right shoulder sprain. The Celtics won the first meeting with the Heat, 105-95 in south Florida on Nov. 30.
Key trends: The Heat are 3-8 against the spread in the past 11 meetings. The "over/under" has gone under in four of the past five.
Early lean: Celtics and under. Weird starts like this generally favor the home team in a big way.
Timberwolves at Pelicans (-4, 217)
Minnesota has agreed to a buyout with Andre Miller and is close to doing so with Kevin Martin -- Martin would have some good value around the league. The Wolves lost 114-105 in Toronto on Wednesday to start a three-game road trip. Andrew Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 26 points. They shot 50 percent from the field, falling to 6-6 when doing so this season. New Orleans surprised visiting Oklahoma City 123-119 on Thursday. Anthony Davis had 30 points and Ryan Anderson had 26 off the bench. The Pelicans have lost another player to injury as guard Bryce Dejean-Jones, who has been starting of late, has a fractured right wrist. No team has been as injury-ravaged this season. The Pelicans are 2-0 this season against Minnesota and have won seven straight in the series.
Key trends: New Orleans is 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings. The over is 5-1 in the previous six in the Big Easy.
Early lean: Pelicans and over.
Trail Blazers at Bulls (TBA)
Chicago was in Atlanta on Friday with Derrick Rose questionable. Portland's six-game winning streak ended in a 119-105 home loss to Houston on Thursday. The Blazers led by 21 in the third quarter. Damian Lillard's streak of five straight games of at least 30 points ended as he had 23. The Rockets were often double-teaming him. This starts a six-game road trip for Portland.
Key trends: The Bulls are 2-6 ATS in their past eight in the second of a back-to-back. Portland is 5-1 ATS in the past six road games. The over is 6-0 in the Blazers' past six overall.
Early lean: Like Portland regardless of Rose.
Spurs at Rockets (+5, 211.5)
How much will San Antonio have left in the tank here? The Spurs conclude their eight-game Rodeo Road Trip. The improved to 6-1 on it with a 96-78 win in Utah on Thursday in the second of a back-to-back. Kawhi Leonard had 29 points and that Spurs defense held the Jazz to their lowest point total of the season. San Antonio improved to 44-0 when it has a higher shooting percentage than its opponent. Houston won by 14 in Portland on Thursday to conclude a five-game trip of its own. James Harden had 46 points. Dwight Howard added 19 points and 13 rebounds for Houston, which had lost four of five. Backup center Clint Capela sat with a sprained foot. This is the final meeting of the regular season, and San Antonio leads 2-1. The Spurs loss was in Houston.
Key trends: The home team is 9-0 ATS in the past nine meetings. The over is 5-1 in the past six overall.
Early lean: Rockets and over.
Pistons at Bucks (+2, 206.5)
Detroit won a second straight Wednesday, 111-91 over the 76ers to get to .500. There were barely any fans at the Palace with a snowstorm hitting the Detroit area. Tobias Harris led the Pistons with 22 points. They were without rookie Stanley Johnson, who is likely out at least a week with a shoulder injury. Milwaukee's two-game winning streak ended in a 112-107 loss in Boston on Thursday. Jabari Parker led Milwaukee with 22 points. The Pistons and Bucks have split two meetings, each wining at home.
Key trends: The Pistons are 1-7 ATS in the past eight meetings. The over is 7-3 in the past 10.
Early lean: Bucks and over.
Warriors at Thunder (+2.5, 232.5)
This is your ABC Saturday night game of the week and will have live betting at sportsbooks. The Warriors are amazing, no doubt, but they have yet to play at either San Antonio or Oklahoma City yet. So now maybe we see how truly great they are. The Warriors close out their seven-game road trip here. They are 5-1 on it following a 130-114 win in Orlando on Thursday. I thought Golden State had a chance to lose that off a really tough game in Miami the night before. But Steph Curry wouldn't allow that to happen with 51 points while also setting an NBA record by hitting a 3-pointer in a 128th straight game. It was Curry's third 50-point game this season. Guy's amazing. Oklahoma City lost in New Orleans on Thursday 123-119 despite 44 points from Russell Westbrook. The Thunder lost at Golden State 116-108 the night before the Super Bowl.
Key trends: The home team is 6-0 ATS in the past six meetings. The over is 7-3 in the past 10.
Early lean: Thunder and I just can't go over that crazy total -- although simply as a fan I hope it does.
Grizzlies at Suns (+6, 207)
Memphis was at the Lakers on Friday. Phoenix has flat-out quit. The Suns dropped a 13th straight game Thursday, 116-106 at home to a bad Brooklyn team. The losing streak ties a single-season franchise record and the Suns' eight straight losses are a record. Newly-acquired Kris Humphries typified the night for Phoenix, going 0-for-9 from the field in just 11 minutes and having two shots blocked on the same possession. Tyson Chandler was back after missing the previous two games. Memphis has won eight straight against Phoenix.
Key trends: The Grizzlies are 6-2 ATS in the past eight meetings. The under is 8-1 in the past nine in Phoenix.
Early lean: Grizzlies and under.
Nets at Jazz (-10.5, 195.5)
Brooklyn won by 10 in Phoenix on Thursday behind a season-high 24 points from Bojan Bogdanovic. He's now the team's starting shooting guard with Johnson gone. Brooklyn's 21-point lead at the half was its largest of the season. Utah had scored at least 111 points in three straight games before running into the Spurs on Thursday night and scoring a season-low 78 in an 18-point home loss. Derrick Favors scored 25 for the Jazz. Newly-acquired point guard Shelvin Mack remained in Utah's starting lineup for the second consecutive game. He has taken that spot from Trey Burke, who only played 11 minutes. Utah won in Brooklyn 108-86 on Jan. 22. The Jazz led by as many as 31 after trailing by 11 early.
Key trends: The favorite is 5-1 ATS in the past six meetings. The under is 8-0 in Utah's past eight following a double-digit loss at home.
Early lean: Jazz and under.
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